Scenes From A Sunday Afternoon


It’s been a week since a flock of grackles descended in the trees around my home and unleashed a hailstorm of acorns.  I have since learned that acorns are one of the species’ culinary favorites, especially as the iridescent birds begin their migration south.

That being said, they aren’t very neat or efficient eaters.  In fact, I don’t think the ’80s band A Flock of Seagulls could have caused this much of a mess in their hotel room, not even during the height of their popularity.

Seven days since their arrival — that’s seven days filled with more grackles, squirrels, and wind — the driveway and path looked as if they were the end-result of some slapstick comedy routine — you know, the one where an innocent passerby (me, for example) slips on some casually placed marbles (or acorns, as the case may be), so that the prankster (or grackle) can have a few laughs.

Continue reading

To Blow Or To Suck, That Is The Question

Of course, I’m referring to leaves — what on earth were you thinking — because my yard is, once again, overrun with leaves — which is strange, since I have very vivid memories of autumn weekends with a rake.  I’m positive I raked this yard a few months ago.  In fact, I’ve written extensively about my love of raking, and the peace and nostalgia that this chore delivers.


But as I look out at a yard buried under as many leaves as I raked in the fall, I have decided that I am not a fan of spring raking.  It’s bothersome and it gets in the way of what I really want to do, which is prepare the beds for actual gardening — not this maintenance stuff.  I’ve waited through all of winter for this first warmish weekend to work outside — and raking is not on my list of things to do.

Continue reading

What Not To Tell The Kids

I’m the first to admit it.  There’s a lot about gardening that I don’t know – so much so that I can’t even pretend.  What I do know, I have been able to gather from books, conversations, television shows, and, now, from fellow garden bloggers and reader comments.

None of this, though, is enough to stop me from the seasonal shake of my head when I pass some gardens and non-gardens and wonder, “What were they thinking — or not thinking, as the case may be?”  And once that ball gets rolling, my list of garden pet peeves gets longer and I can’t help but imagine the conversations that might be happening.

“Mommy, where does mulch come from?”

“Well, dear, deep in the center of the earth there is a hot core of molten mulch.  And each spring, as the air gets warmer, the molten mulch moves toward the surface – usually around the base of trees because their roots have punctured the mulch bubble.  Then, mulch pours from the ground around the tree, piling up higher and higher as it cools.”

So that would explain it – because I can’t think of any other reason to explain the appearance of cone-shaped mulch volcanoes that pop up each spring on residential and commercial properties alike.

I have always been of the mindset that mulch is good.  It’s decorative and practical, as it helps to keep roots cool in summer and warm in winter, as well as limiting weed growth and aiding in the soil’s moisture retention – but too much of a good thing can be bad.  Mulch that is too deep can have a negative effect on a tree’s bark and root functioning, and, therefore, on its overall health. 

Grab your rakes, America.  It’s time to save countless gardens and yards from these devastating mulch flows.

“Daddy, where does seedless watermelon come from?”

“Well, honey, um. . . . .”


When did “seed” become an ugly word?  The seeds are part of the fun that comes from eating a watermelon – that’s why spitting was invented.  The rest of the fun comes from the rich color and the sweet juice that I remember dribbling down my chin and onto my t-shirt.

Seedless is even used as part of the advertisement.  It says, “See how convenient I am.  No seeds here to take up your time.”  Now we have a generation that actually thinks seedless is a good thing. 

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I just haven’t been fortunate enough to actually eat a delicious seedless watermelon – and I’m done trying.  Each time I sample some, I feel as if something is missing – more than just seeds.  When I finish eating a slice and look at my seedless plate, I start missing the way watermelon used to be – and, for that matter, how so many other things used to be.

Yes, in our quest to go seedless, we have lost something.  Color.  Flavor.  And a childhood memory.

Where, oh where, has my watermelon gone?  Oh, where, oh where can it be?

“Mommy, why are our flowers melting?”

“Not now, sweetheart.  Just eat your seedless watermelon so we can go watch daddy and his mulch volcano.”

If I remember my high school biology, plastic is not organic and so it cannot reproduce – and yet, more and more plastic flowers are appearing in gardens, window boxes, and flower pot displays.  Even the anole in the above photo looks perplexed — or at least as perplexed as an anole can look.  In fact, I have even turned it into a bit of a game – I spy. . . plastic tulips in the privet hedge.

Is there ever a good excuse for using plastic flowers in the landscape?  Maybe it has to do with conserving water – you know, using plastic for greener living.  Or, maybe it has to do with finding the perfect flower strong enough to withstand summer’s heat and/or winter’s cold – but at some point, even plastic daffodils need a rest. 

My fellow gardeners, we must put a stop to these plastic pushers.  If not, I fear we are witnessing the dawn of a new invasive species – one that cannot be composted away. 

And now that I’ve gotten all this off my chest, I’m gazing upon a fourth peeve: the naked yard.  One of my neighbors has nothing planted , and I can only imagine how they explain that to the kids.  Hmmmm.

Bloomin’ Update 31: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Before I get into this post, I wanted to send out a special thanks to those of you who took the time to add a caption to the previous post.  Your creativity and humor were  wonderful treats after I arrived home and logged in to catch up on blog duty.  I’m still smiling and LOL-ing!

I’m not a fan of the Western.  I have always found the film genre too gritty, too violent, and too filled with underhanded, unsavory characters.  I like comedy, drama, melodrama, a soundtrack, and always a happy ending.

But when Joe and I arrived home at 3:00 a.m. after a marathon drive from Fort Lauderdale, we entered the house as if we were a couple of sun-baked cattle rustlers in our own Western.  Unshaven.  Sweaty.  Delirious.  Exhausted.  Even our mouths were tired as we spoke to on another with jaws that were just shy of clenched.  Ironically, our newly repaired covered wagon — I mean the car — was in better shape than we were!  Any thoughts or worries about my garden would have to wait until daylight — or at least until I was prepared to see daylight.

The forecasters, however, had other ideas about daylight.  It seems that the next few days would be filled with heavy thunderstorms, strong winds, and possible hail.  What’s a gardener in search of a happy ending to do? 

Continue reading

Bloomin’ Update 27: Let’s Go For A Walk

I read somewhere – and I apologize to whoever said it because I cannot credit you – it’s a shame that so many gardeners keep their gardens locked up in their backyards. How nice it would be if the garden could be in the front yard for everyone and anyone to enjoy as they walk by. 

That was my thought as Joe and I walked around the neighborhood on this first day of summer, strolling by our neighbors’ homes to get a peek and to be inspired by what was blooming.  This is what we found.

To start the walk, we had to pass our Lace Cap Hydrangea. The flowers remind me of speckled Easter eggs.

This would be a close-up of the “lace” in the Lace Cap.

Across the street, we spotted a small bouquet of Dianthus.

Just up the street, another neighbor had Daylilies blooming everywhere.

Another neighbor had cluster upon cluster of Roses spilling over a rock retaining wall.

I couldn’t resist a closer look at the ruffled petals.

This Daylily seemed to scream, “Look into my eye.” So I did.

Around the corner, there were beds of Astilbe in full bloom.

Up close, the pink clouds reminded me of cotton candy.

Around another corner, we discovered a bed of Yarrow growing around a curbside mailbox.

Imagine our surprise when we spotted a bed of Cactus — in flower — a few houses away. The owner, Helen, came running out and offered us a clipping, and then showed us the rest of her front yard garden. We made a promise to return again for a tour of the backyard — a new neighborly friend.

When we returned home, there was time to stop and smell the Lavender.

Happy Summer!

Bloomin’ Update 21: Down The Rabbit Hole


I was all set to do a before and after photo spread, starting off with white and colored eggs in the spirit of the Easter holiday, and then segue into a series of photos about my pre- and post-Spring clean-up.

Before: The implied knot garden.

My raking , though, became more of an excavation as I uncovered plants that I hadn’t seen in some time — and my imagination kicked in.  Suddenly, I was a space explorer hovering over an unchartered alien world, boldly going where no man had gone before.  Or, in keeping with the season, I was Alice down the rabbit hole — and the garden grew curiouser and curiouser.

An oasis of peony.

The Valley of Lily of the Valley.

A view of Hosta Heights.

The edge of the Great Boxwood Forest.

The Spiderwort Wood, or as the local tribes call it, Tradescantia.

The Great Desert was once a colorful jungle. What happened here?

The unfurling tendrils of the Ferocious Ferns are poised to snag an unsuspecting wanderer.

When I came to, I was back in my garden, rake in hand and surveying my work . . .

After: The implied knot garden.

. . . still unsure about where I had been.  But at least I have the photos to prove that it was a real place. 

Happy Passover.  Happy Easter.

Bloomin’ Update 17: Anticipation

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and my thought was to use it as the basis for a “Bloomin’ Update” post with photos of wintry scenes.  But this winter hasn’t been so bleak.  In fact, it feels more like mid-March than mid-winter.  Perhaps a more appropriate title should be “In the Balmy Midwinter.”

Holly berries.

Hardy Geranium

Continue reading

Bloomin’ Update 15: Greetings from South Florida

Like a good postcard, this one is arriving to you after I made it home.  Joe and I spent the past week in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, where we plan to retire in the near future.  We purchased a small home there almost 20 years ago.  In fact, we made one payment and a low pressure system became Hurricane Andrew.  We also removed all of the shade trees and replaced them with palms.  Since then, the house has been rented and we return several times a year to do yard work.  Yard work?  That’s a vacation?  For us – and probably for most gardeners who have little patience for winter’s dreariness – this is a vacation: the chance to feel the sun, to play in the dirt, and to see all shades of green.

There was some extra fun this time in Florida since I had the chance to play with my Christmas gift, a Canon SX40HS digital camera.  Armed with my new toy, I found every excuse under the Florida sun to snap some garden and vacation photos.   Would you expect anything different from a boy and his new gadget?

Continue reading

Bloomin’ Update 11: Legends of the Fall

As October comes to a close, an early nor’easter has turned fall into FALL.  As rain pours down, as snow blankets us with a slushy mush, as ice pellets sting our face, and as howling wind tears the leaves from their branches, here a few photos of the colors, the debris, and the faded glory of autumn.

Let the raking begin.


The pink of Autumn Joy has aged and deepened to a dark, dusty rose.


Pee Gee Hydrangea is now parchment-colored.


This bee is probably wishing it had a blanket as it naps on Blanket Flower.


The Maple is on fire.


I'm not sure of the name of this plant, but the leaves are a bright spot in the garden -- until the temperatures really drop an the leaves droop. But with warmth, they rebound.


Liatris "punks" have turned from purple to brown.


Mums and Black Mondo Grass.


Lacecap Hydrangea is a shadow of its summer color.


Maple leaves nestled against a stone wall.


The buds for next spring's blooms are set on the northern growing Magnolia. Something to look forward to!


Book Review: 1493

When children recite, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “From where does your garden grow?”  That’s the question I ‘m asking myself this Columbus Day weekend after reading the best-selling new book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann.  This meticulously researched book examines the world after Columbus set foot in North America. 

While Columbus certainly has his critics, there can be no mistaking that his arrival in the New World placed the entire world on the globalization frontier.  The author’s position is that much of what we enjoy today can be traced back to what he calls the Columbian Exchange, a means of moving plants and seeds and animals from one part of the world to another part.  It is why, for example, that tomatoes arrived in Italy and citrus arrived in Florida.  So much of what we take for granted wasn’t always so; and much of it would not be if Columbus had not set the process in motion. 

I myself am a bit of a mutt: English, Scottish, German, French, and Italian.  My paternal ancestors arrived in North America in 1675; my maternal great-grandfather entered through Ellis Island.  While this is my gene pool, I wonder just how diverse and worldly is my garden? 

Thanks to the Internet and Google, I learned that what I plant has traveled a long way to be planted.  In fact, my garden could be a lesson for world leaders seeking peace.   Although it heavily favors Asia and Central and South Americas, there is little conflict in plants from many lands successfully sharing common ground.   (Note to self: bring Australia into the mix, but wait until full-out global warming for Antarctica to come into bloom.) 

And to think my melting pot only took 518 years — and still counting — to plant. 

Happy Columbus Day — and enjoy the weekend in the garden.